Monday, August 28, 2006

Why Hemingway Is Chick-Lit -- In These Times

Why Hemingway Is Chick-Lit -- In These Times: "“When women stop reading, the novel will be dead,” declared Ian McEwan in the Guardian last year. The British novelist reached this rather dire conclusion after venturing into a nearby park in an attempt to give away free novels. The result?

Only one “sensitive male soul” took up his offer, while every woman he approached was “eager and grateful” to do the same."

Click the title above to read the whole article. The take-home message: women read to "experience other ‘minds in action’—which is another way of defining ‘empathy’." Or maybe the take-home message is, the novel is already dead, since men don't care about it. (Shades of the nineteenth century, when novel-reading was derided as an effeminate pastime, as Chaudhry points out.) Men, by the way, do read: they just read non-fiction, according to the article.

I want to think about this more, especially since when I teach children's literature women are (slightly) less likely than men to have an interest in fantasy, which most people think of as the polar opposite of non-fiction. Hmm.


Library Mama said...

I think this polarization occurs at a very early age.

I consider it a challenge to get boys at our elementary school to enjoy novels. Some do. Most would much rather read non-fiction.

I'm not sure there's anything particularly wrong with that, except that there are so many wonderful novels out there that they are missing out on.

I agree with you on the subject of fantasy, though. Of those boys at my school who do enjoy novels, fantasy is often their fiction of choice.

PunditMom said...

Interesting. In thinking about it, I'm trying to remember the books my husband reads vs. the ones I read. It is the rare occasion when we read the same book and I do tend to read more fiction than he does.

Jody said...

I think the question of why men and boys don't read fiction has quite an academic backing to it. Probably fascinating to follow through the academic journals. (Oh, wait, have I just given away my complete geekiness there?) Jim Trelease talks about boys and reading for, I think, a whole chapter in _The new Read-Aloud Handbook_.

Have men ever been the target audience for novels? I thought it was a feminine form (as against the male essay) ever since the 1800s....But everything I know about the history of the novel, I learned at a drunken party in Oxford, so my memory is probably inherently flawed....